This show was the premiere night of Todd Gordon’s “from the heart” tribute to Frank Sinatra and his music in the 100th anniversary year of his birth, and the intimate space of Studio Two in The Assembly Rooms was the perfect venue for a singer like Todd Gordon who can not only sing, but time and phrase perfectly some of the very intimate songs that Frank Sinatra covered in his long career. Having that gentle and warm connection with an audience also helps of course.
The last time that I saw Todd perform was a few weeks ago on the opening night of The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival where he was one of the leading acts in the Frank Sinatra Centenary concert in an absolutely packed to capacity Festival Theatre (nearly 2,000 seats) and backed by The BBC Big Band. This show is about as big a contrast as you will get as Studio Two is a space for “close up and personal” shows, and watching the way that Todd adapted his songs and presentation for the two very different spaces was interesting, and it was a pleasure to watch someone just at home in both types of venues. For a singer/performer, there is just no hiding space from an audience in this space and when you are singing deceptively simple songs that are actually very difficult to perform properly like this you have to be very good or the slightest mistake will catch you out quickly. Todd Gordon is very good at these songs and that laid back performance style, and the audience tonight certainly appreciated this performance.
On stage tonight with Todd were two excellent musicians, Andy Robb on acoustic bass and pianist and musical arranger David Patrick. Some of the songs in this show tonight had been specially arranged by Todd and David.
This show is just what the ticket says it is, one man singing great songs that Frank Sinatra recorded in that wonderful laid back style of performing. It is not only an affectionate tribute to Frank, but also to the music and songs themselves and the great writers and lyricists such as Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin and many others. The show also shows just how carefully Frank Sinatra chose the songs that he recorded and how much that choice was driven by the lyrics of a song.
There are a few songs from the show that stood out for me tonight including “The Summer Wind” and “One For My Baby”. The latter was just a perfect song as it works best in a small bar type space.
We also had a few interesting medleys of songs including one of Cole Porter songs and another of some of Frank’s biggest (but not personally liked at some times) hits…including “My Way”. It was a pleasure to watch the reserved and understated style that Todd performed “My Way” in and just nice to see someone perform this song who understands that this song is about the words and that it does not have to be an “over the top” performance. Like many of the songs in this show, it is about life and reflecting on it, and you just have to be a certain age to do these songs justice.
I am deliberately missing out some of the songs here in this review as part of the pleasure of going to a show like this is just not knowing what is on the musical menu for the night and as this was only the first night in an almost month long run of shows, I want to keep some musical surprises there for you all.
This was simply a good evening out listening to some great songs in the company of a performer simply sharing his love of the songs and music of Frank Sinatra with an audience. Todd Gordon does not do a “tribute act”, he is simply continuing the musical legacy of Frank Sinatra in his own unique style.
If there was one thing I could change about tonight, it is not with Todd Gordon, but the Assembly Rooms and how they allow a performer to handle “meet and greet” the artist after the shows – particularly after an intimate show like this and with a performer like Todd who is happy to talk to his audience. The opportunity to meet the artist (not just Todd, but any performer) and buy your CD, have a chat, get it signed is something that is best done immediately on leaving the performance. It is also often an impulse thing for someone and artists/performers need those impulse CD/book/merchandise sales. The wide open area of the Assembly Rooms entrance hall is far removed from the actual venue space and is not the ideal space for this. Building that personal contact with your audience is vital for performers, and this is particularly important at a Fringe venue with a Fringe audience as this “meet and greet” opportunity is what will often bring a visiting ticket buyer back again next year and everybody wins out of that – performer, venue and audience.